With anti-planning supervisors in the majority on the Board of Supervisors, EHL has been forced to file several lawsuits. This need has been exacerbated by the County’s own Department of Planning and Development Services, which over the past 10 years has urged approval of sprawl developments that bust open the Village-centric General Plan adopted in 2011.
In a case initiated by the Sierra Club, EHL and other groups are suing the County on CEQA and General Plan grounds over a Climate Action Plan (CAP) that fails to curtail greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. Remarkably, the CAP facilitates sprawl development, and would lock in long commutes and high automobile use. The CAP allows developers to use bogus “carbon offsets” to cheaply buy their way out of the problem. The case was won in trial court but is under appeal by the County. EHL is represented by Chatten-Brown, Carstens & Minteer.
CEQA litigation by EHL against the Newland Sierra development in the North County was put on hold pending resolution of an important, related action over the County’s brazen destruction of public documents. A massive amendment to the General Plan in a high fire risk zone, the project would fragment an intact core area of wildlife habitat. No affordable housing was required. However, in a major victory, on March 3, 2020 the entire project was overturned by a voter referendum and will be repealed. EHL was represented by Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger. In its parallel litigation, the Golden Door was represented by Latham & Watkins.
CEQA litigation against the Harmony Grove Village South and Valiano projects, which would create sprawl development in scenic rural lands in the North County, was won in the trial court. EHL joined local community groups, which led the litigation, in successfully raising fire safety affordable housing, and greenhouse gas issues. One project received an exemption from the standard requirement for two emergency exist routes in case of wildlife, showing just how far San Diego County and its Fire Authority will go in jeopardizing public safety to approve development. EHL and other groups are represented by Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger and Law Offices of Abigail Smith, respectively.
The Otay Ranch Village 14 project was approved absent necessary amendment of the Multiple Species Conservation Program. It would eliminate a golden eagle territory integral to the habitat plan, and lead to the eventual loss of a core population of the highly endangered quino checkerspot butterfly. The site has burned twice in recent decades and the project would create a virtual fire trap for future residents due to failed evacuation. EHL sued under CEQA and General Plan grounds. Due to a land exchange approved by the state and federal wildlife agencies that enables the development, EHL also sued the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife for not conducting any CEQA review. EHL is represented by Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger.
Otay Ranch Village 13, which shares many of Village 14’s problems, is advancing through County processing and entering public hearings. EHL will engage.
Endangered Habitats League has settled litigation filed against the City of San Marcos over the San Marcos Highlands project. The litigation was filed to protect a wildlife movement corridor. With the outcomes of the agreement, EHL no longer opposes the project. The project also required annexation of unincorporated land into the City. The County of San Diego here played a positive role here by linking the annexation to consistency with the pending North County Multiple Species Conservation Program (North County MSCP). An agreement was also reached with state and federal wildlife agencies in connection with the annexation. EHL was represented by Kevin K. Johnson, APLC.
EHL is carefully monitoring the Harvest Hills project near Escondido – formerly called Safari Highlands Ranch – which would ruin a core habitat area for the North County Multiple Species Conservation Program and put residents in grave high fire danger. Extensive CEQA comments were filed in partnership with a community group.
EHL also continues to monitor the “Property Specific Requests” General Plan amendment – initiated by the County itself – that would intensify large lot subdivision over 10,000 acres of the backcountry.
In welcome good news, due to General Plan inconsistency, in 2019, the applicant abandoned processing of the Warner Ranch project, a leapfrog development that would have caused roadway widening and induced growth into the agricultural Pauma Valley.